‘Of Mice and Men’ is a novel written by John Steinbeck in 1937, based on Steinbeck’s personal experiences relating on life on the ranches. The characters, George and Lennie, are some of the characters that have Steinbeck’s aspects of his life seeing as they are the main characters of the novel. In the novel Steinbeck highlights the social conflicts of that time period, such as the climatic changes cause by drought and the financial collapse of 1929, which had increase unemployment and poverty throughout the United States of America.
One of the most important aspects that is attached with most of the characters of the novel is loneliness. Steinbeck has purposely named the town Soledad because in Spanish Soledad means “loneliness” and it shows the reader how lonely the town is. Loneliness motivates characters to seek an alternate way of life. The characters that start off together end up being separated up in the end like George and Lennie, Candy and his dog and Curley and his wife.
Everyone on the ranch is lonely; this is because all the men in the bunkhouse are single. An example of this is when George says “They got no family”.
This means that they are like orphans because they do not have a family and no one to care for them. The men that live in the bunkhouse also have nothing to look forward to, except work for the rest of their lives. Even though George has Lennie with him, he is still feels lonely and an example of this is that in the story they show Lennie play the game solitaire, which is only played by one person and is not a team game which means that there is no social interaction.
It is also because George has all the responsibility and to take care of Lennie because Lennie is not responsible. This makes the other characters find it strange that they travel around together because most of the ranch hands tend to travel around alone. This can be seen when Slim is surprised at the closeness of their relationship, “aint many guys travel around together.” This shows that having company is unusual and being lonely is now seen as normal.
Candy is also very lonely because during the novella he loses his dog and he also loses his dream. His life is the total opposite of his name because the name ‘Candy’ gives us an image of sweet things but the character Candy is the total opposite. His dog provides him company and has been his life for a long time. This can be seen when he says, “I had him ever since he was a pup,” which shows that the dog was someone he was able to care for which provided him with a family. The killing of Candy’s dog is a reflection of attitudes of life on the ranch because the characters do not have any friends or family themselves, they fail to understand human attachments and relationships. This can be seen when Carlson says, “Why’nt you shoot him Candy?” It shows that Carlson isn’t very sympathetic and he can’t understand how strong a bond is between Candy and his dog. It also mirrors the attitude towards Candy himself as on the ranch when you fail to be useful people just get rid of you.
Another character who is lonely is Crooks. He is lonely because he is isolated due to the colour of his skin, he is the only black man in the book and at that time, America was a very racist place and Crooks is persecuted. He is only referred to as “nigger”, “stable buck” or “crooks” he is never referred to by his actual name which suggests that no one is bothered to get to know him. His loneliness is perhaps the worst in the novella as he lives alone away from everybody else. This can be seen where it says ‘he had his bunk in the harness’, this shows that he is more likely to be lonely as he is isolated from the other ranch hands purely based on the colour of his skin.
This can be seen in the quote that says ‘ A guy goes nuts if he ain’t got nobody’ , this suggests that he may have literally gone insane with loneliness. However, it is clear that he craves companionship and this can be seen when Lennie comes into his living quarters and he does not stop talking, clearly showing that he yearns for company as he is terribly lonely. It is ironic because he ahs a copy of the California Code in his room which is meant to protect the rights of black people in America, but it is very clear that this is in fact a symbol and not a reality for men like Crooks, who is unable to socialise or be accepted as a ranch hand due to the colour of his skin.
Curley was aggressive man and is referred to fighting. This is because he looks like a boxer and Candy say that he is “handy”, which means that he fights well. Whit also says that he was in the finals for the “Golden Glove” which is a boxing competition and it shows us that he likes fighting. In relationships, no one likes Curley and he does not get any respect from anyone. This shows us that he is also lonely because even though he is married, his wife is not happy with him as she thinks she has missed many opportunities by living with Curley and the lonely men. The only time Curley is shown with his wife is when she is dead.
Curley’s wife wants to have recognition, attention, her own identity and her own life. Steinbeck has not given her a name on purpose to show how she has none of these things. She does not have her own identity because she is seen as just someone’s wife and without Curley, she would be nothing. She is very lonely because no one seems to love her because Curley is not very affectionate. She is continually looking for companionship because she says “Think I don’t like to talk to somebody ever’ once in a while?”
This shows that she too is lonely and possibly even more isolated as the other ranch hands do not want to talk to her for fear of upsetting Curley and it clearly shows that Curley does not give her the attention she craves and desires. She tries to desperately get the attention of the other ranch hands by dressing up when she goes to see them. She is described as having ‘red’ nails and lipstick, the colour ‘red’ suggests love and danger, which means that she automatically repels people that she needs for company. This shows she is incredibly desperate and sad, and she is going to the barn looking for cheap thrills and an ego boost.
In conclusion, Steinbeck has presented the theme of loneliness successfully in various ways. He has explained how the life on ranches can be very lonely even if you are still around people. He has done this by making George tell Lennie how the life of a ranch-hand is among the loneliest of lives and by making some of the characters confess their deep loneliness to Lennie and George which shows how desperate they are by admitting to complete strangers.